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Struggling in a 20 year marriage
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Struggling in a 20 year marriage

Please help. I have been married for nearly 20 years and have three children aged 11, 13 and 16. My husband is my best friend and a lovely, kind, successful person. However, for years I have kept the secret that I don't find him physically attractive at all. I can see that he is handsome, and he is slim and fit, but I can't make myself feel desire for him. I knew this when I married him but I was very young and he was so in love with me, experienced, kind and made me feel so safe, so I decided it would be fine and I would 'learn' to love him in this way.

It has never happened - we have sex intermittently but I often turn over and weep at the lack of intimacy - I don't want to touch or hold him, and I can't bear to look him in the eyes and hold him afterwards. I have a desire for sex, but not for him. I dream desperately of meeting someone, falling in love with them and having a full, happy relationship.

Most of the time I keep this buried - busying myself with children, house moves, career, voluntary work, caring for my terminally ill mother (she died 20 months ago), seeing friends, etc. We have tried so hard - we had a holiday away together earlier this year without the children at a luxury beach resort - we had sex three times a day but it was so lacking in emotion, and I ended up weeping in the shower, and spending as much time as I could reading, listening to my ipod or going for a run to try and distract myself.

After a very difficult family holiday last week, I summoned up the courage to tell him how I feel. I was so horrified at hurting him, but he begged me to tell him everything, so I did. He was gutted, devastated, but deep down he knew. I told him that I think he deserves someone who truly loves him, and he was so touched that I thought of him. We had a 4 hour conversation - no shouting - and he is so supportive. He understands that we should separate and we are going to live with this thought for a little while now before we tell the children and he moves out.

I hate myself so much - I haven't slept for days - what am I doing? Have I lost the plot? I will never find someone so kind and loving ever again, and I am 43 so who is going to want me anyway? Will I regret this? I have no-one to talk to and am just so confused and frightened of the future. If I run back to him, he will be so grateful, but that would be so unfair on him.
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134578_tn?1404951303
I think in your shoes, I would look for a counselor or therapist.  Not that you sound anything but clear in your thoughts, but because it is the loneliest place in the world not to be able to tell someone these things and talk them over, and a therapist is a safe haven for such admissions.  It's not like telling your sister or your best friend, who will have their own opinions and agendas (and besides, they will never forget, if you do try again with your husband, that you feel this way).  You'll find it is such a relief to have someone to talk to that you will probably cry through your whole first appointment -- I did, when first talking to a grief counselor about secondary infertility, because I had nobody in my entire personal world who would have understood me feeling the way I did about it.  It was such a damn relief just to talk to someone.

A few other pieces of advice:  

If you do separate, the kids might want an explanation and you might be tempted to tell them the details.  You can tell them that for you something was missing, but do not burden them with the truth about your sexual desire or lack of it.  Kids do not need to know such Freudian things, and it will make them shudder for the rest of their life if they do.  lol  

Also, you're wondering about being in your 40s and not meeting anyone.  First of all, if it is to meet someone that you are thinking of leaving, you need to consider again.  It is probably not true that if you leave, you will never find another sexual partner.  However, you should be ready to have a full life even so.  You have felt guilty and burdened for 20 years at not having sexual desire for your husband, that is enough by itself to make life grim and sad.  Absent that burden, you can build a happy life even if it does not include mind-boggling sex with a romance-novel hero.

Finally, the way you talk about sex seems just a bit as though you have extremely high expectations for it.  Sometimes, sex is about as good as masturbation, it is not all about bodice-ripper moments.  In fact, often after the honeymoon phase wears off, it gets to be routine.  Comforting, physically satisfying, but not thrilling, if the partner is one of long standing.  So my last idea is that you consider what you're expecting from sex per se, and be sure that what you're feeling with your spouse is well below the average, before breaking up the marriage.

That all said, I think you sound considerate of your husband and clear that things just aren't happening for you.  Talk to a counselor and see where that takes you.

Good luck, sweetheart.  Sometimes we do have to strike out into the unknown without guarantees.
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973741_tn?1342346373
I agree with AnnieBrooke's comments.  I do believe sex is important in a marriage but after so many years find it odd that NOW you want to go.  It makes me wonder if you have indeed found someone or have your eye on someone and NOW it is worth ending your marriage.  

Many--------  and I mean many------- couples start out with exciting, mind blowing sex and as the years go on fall into comfortable intimacy minus the mind blowing stuff.  They love each other just the same as that is just one aspect of a relationship.

good luck
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134578_tn?1404951303
Thanks for the vote of confidence in my remarks.  One difference between what you say and what I think about the o.p.'s situation is that unlike you, I don't find it odd that NOW she would want to go.  In early marriage, we're likely to gloss any difficulties and feel optimistic that things will get better, and then a long period of child rearing (especially if things are okay financially and so there are no horrible stresses over money to make it worse) can kind of be like a duty call in which the dissatisfied party ***** it up for the sake of raising the kids securely.  Now she's facing more years of the same, with the kids mostly raised, and it's almost like a "my primary job is done" feeling.  Sure, she's also thinking of the "my looks aren't going to get any better" line, which would possibly give a bit more urgency to the situation especially if she feels it is necessary to attract another man.  But a woman can hit her 40s and feel enough is enough.  A dear friend of mine is separating from her husband now, also after 20 years of marriage with her kids both in high school, and while she has the sense of this being her supposed 'last chance' in terms of her physical attractiveness, what is really going on for her is that she feels like she has been emotionally frozen and on hold all this time, and now she can finally go after having done the lion's share of her duty for her kids and her spouse.  In other words, hitting one's 40s can be a time to re-evaluate, after the first phase of life is done, not necessarily because she's met someone else.  (My friend had met someone else, but they had not had one word of romance pass between them.  She said that what happened is that she felt so happy when he was around, that it underscored how generally unhappy and closed-up she felt most of the time.  A person can get to that realization without having met someone, or maybe they might.  But it's not always that they are intending to leave man A for man B.)
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134578_tn?1404951303
Oh, for heaven's sake, the censoring software.  Where the dissatisfied party s u c k s it up for the sake of raising the kids, is what I wrote.
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973741_tn?1342346373
Thanks for always being so willing to give your perspective!  Always good for a poster to have different ideas to pull from when working on their issue.    I'm a woman in my 40's and see far more complacency as time goes along with my peers than not.  Men, on the other hand, often, in my experience, leave more readily for reasons you describe.  The way she wrote made me think of someone else catching her eye.  

I like that we can all share our own opinion with no right or wrong.  
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Avatar_f_tn
That is what is so nice and helpful about the forums.  Listen to others' opinions and decide what you will do.  It's great.
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134578_tn?1404951303
I wish the original poster would weigh back in on this.  It would be interesting to know if any of us hit the nail on the head, and especially if it is helpful for her to have someone to 'talk' to about this.  She sounded so sad, like she thought she was ruining her husband's life by telling him this.
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Her sadness makes me wonder of this is truly what she wants.
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973741_tn?1342346373
After 20 years of marriage, it very well might ruin his life to hear how she really feels.  I think if my husband told me that he'd never been sexually attracted to me and had been forcing himself to be intimate with me all this time, I'd want to crawl in a hole and not come back out.  

I imagine, if you love someone----------- even when you want to leave------  it is very sad to break their heart.  

Anyway, questioning someone's motives does not mean one absolutely believes something about them.  It is a way to have someone tell a full story, question themselves, reflect.  If the thought crosses my mind as to what a potential motive could be for an abrupt life change (and for many women that have been married for many years, potentially breaking up their family by their own doing is a dramatic step)---, I ask the question.

Hopefully she will find her answers from within------  where truth usually comes from.  We all give our insight with the hope to help someone find their own truth or peace to their life.  The  more thoughts we give, the better chance that something will help a poster.    
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134578_tn?1404951303
I agree that people usually don't break up a comfortable long-term marriage out of the blue if nothing new has happened to makes the status quo more untenable.  I didn't read it that the o.p. was looking at a specific other man since she wondered if she would ever find anyone at 43.  She did mention the death of her mother; that's a life change that can make someone wonder what to do in the time one has left.

Anyway, it's all just speculation unless she posts again.
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973741_tn?1342346373
I do believe that I at times read posts quickly while my kids are running around in the background distracting me----  so then I may or may not read things correctly.  I agree with you as well that the death of one's mother could make you look at your own mortality as well as being a terribly emotional time in which depression and sadness and regret can take over.  

Anyway, I do hope she is able to find her answer----  no matter why she is where she is in life--------  and eventually find peace.  
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Avatar_f_tn
It's nearly a week since my original post. Thank you for your comments. I am a lot calmer. To clarify, I am not seeing anyone else, nor do I have me eye on anyone. I saw a counsellor today and have started down a road towards starting myself a new life. My husband has been devastated by this, and I trying to work through my guilt about this. After my counselling session today, I already realise that I have been carrying this with me for 20 years and that ultimately, I married the wrong man, too young. It's all so sad.
I don't have unrealistic ideas about sex - I have had a lot of it. Just because you don't feel desire doesn't mean you give up trying, but I cannot look at my husband and feel desire - I never have. When he first kissed me, I felt nothing. Why did I continue? Because he was besotted, swept me off my feet, was older, handsome, everyone (friends and family) thought he was amazing, and he made me laugh and we could talk about everything. He was my best friend, still is. But you cannot make yourself be 'in love' with someone, or desire them, and that is my mistake.
My mother died 20 months ago, and watching her die over 2.5 years made me reassess my life. I don't want to be at the jumping off point and think, "Why didn't I...?" For too many years I have lain awake and thought, "I will never feel love, or make to love to anyone before I die" and then either cried quietly, or buried that thought.
Maybe I want too much, maybe it's too late, but I am going to bloody well go for it.
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